Researchers at the University of Georgia have been awarded an $880,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to experiment with pine tree plantations for potential use in biofuel production.

The project also could result in key findings for research of carbon sequestration, a process where trees are used to capture excess carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere.

Professors from the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources plan to experiment with different ways of planting pines to get the greatest biofuel production. Essentially, Daniel Markewitz said, the scientists think there is a great potential for using pines for production of liquid fuels and for generating electricity. They want to know how to optimize pine plantation growth for biofuel.

Markewitz, an associate professor, is working with Warnell colleagues Michael Kane and Robert Teskey, both professors, and assistant research scientist Dehai Zhao. Markewitz said the team plans to focus on the environmental balance required for such production: Not only on how to simultaneously grow timber and biofuels without degrading soil and water quality, but also to discover what happens to the carbon contained in the soil when the trees are harvested.

The project will not examine the economics of using trees for biofuels, but will instead focus on quality growth methods and environmental impacts.